Michael Fritts on the Golden Feather Tea backyard, which was misplaced Thursday in a fast-moving blaze that has since grow to be essentially the most devastating in California historical past. (Photo courtesy of Golden Feather Tea)

CONCOW, Calif.

The Golden Feather Tea farm owned by Michael Fritts was lowered to ashes in the course of the lethal preliminary hours of the biggest of two wildfires nonetheless burning within the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California.

Fritts, his spouse Donna, and their three canines are protected however his house, tea barn, and outbuildings are gone. Fritts has not been in a position to return to the positioning to evaluate the injury to the 800 natural tea bushes which he first planted in May 2011. Fritts initially started with 1 / 4 acre and has since expanded to a half acre at 2,044 toes elevation (600 meters) in a forested space referred to as Yankee Hill. The farm is within the Spring Valley, west of Chico and 20 miles from Lake Oroville, about 80 miles north of Sacramento.

Golden Feather Tea farm just some miles from a fireplace that ignited about 6:30 a.m. Thursday alongside Camp Creek Road in Butte County, Calif. It has since destroyed 6,713 constructions together with 6,453 properties and 260 business buildings and threatens one other 15,500 constructions. It will not be anticipated to be extinguished earlier than Nov. 30.

The Camp Fire began at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday a couple of miles north of the tea backyard on Camp Creek Road and moved swiftly south and west. The backyard is east of Paradise, Calif., a city the place not less than 56 died whereas trying to flee the flames. Three fatalities had been in Concow and dozens are nonetheless lacking. It is the deadliest fireplace since 1933 and has consumed extra constructions than any fireplace within the state’s historical past. The fireplace had claimed 8,00 properties and 260 business buildings as of Nov. 20, burning an space of almost 200 sq. miles (135,000 acres or 55,000 hectares). It is prone to burn till Nov. 30. More than 250,000 Northern California residents in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties had been ordered to flee their properties with the 27,000 who lived in Paradise sheltering elsewhere. Fire officers say 95 % of town’s constructions had been misplaced.

A landscaping contractor with a level in decorative horticulture, Fritts produces a deep golden coloured oolong that was awarded second place in The Tea of the U.S. (TOTUS) tasting competitors in 2015. Fritts has experimented with many teas, together with one he markets as Motherlode Black Gold.

“The plants grow organically in the no-till regenerative way. Old world leaf processing is done by hand using only solar-powered EGO equipment,” writes Fritts.

Fritts, a veteran, was a resident of Paradise for greater than 40 years, working at Mendon’s Nursery earlier than he thought-about tea cultivation. It was there proprietor Jerry Mendon launched him to some tea crops that he had ordered.

(Photo courtesy of Golden Feather Tea)

“The plants flourished and provided a healthful drink. Even more so, the pleasant evergreens provided focus for my mind and peace for my soul. I know that Golden Feather Tea is my divine appointment,” stated Fritts, who suffers from Lyme illness contracted in 2010.

David Hammer at Purple Cloud Tea House in Auburn, Calif., says that Fritts is “hands-on (literally weeding each plant by hand) from start to finish.”

“He cares for his plants with the best organic nutrients and natural water source.  Visiting his tea farm, sitting in his tea barn amongst the trees, and talking with Mike about his tea has been a truly wonderful and memorable experience,” writes Hammer.

The Golden Feather farming expertise has been a terrific service to not solely the curious tea fanatic but in addition to college scientists, says Hammer. The tea backyard is taken into account a non-commercial tea farm however Golden Feather is in transition. Fritts is searching for permits and out of doors funding to plant considerably extra bushes. In October he launched a GoFundMe campaign.

“We are seeking $500,000 to secure a piece of land, install infrastructure and expand planting of the very special varietal,” he defined within the GoFundMe web site. “This unique cultivar is wild in character and believed to have arrived in the U.S. with the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony in 1869,” he stated, describing a captivating journey earlier than it was rediscovered in 2010.

Experts in China and Japan have taken an curiosity on this apparently uncommon cultivar, he stated.

Hammer stated he despatched a pattern from Golden Feature to a buddy and tea scholar, a professor at South China Agriculture University in Guangzhou, who stated he “could taste the wild in the tea.” “I agree,” writes Hammer. “The terroir of Mike’s tea was present in his tea and complimented his processing techniques, resulting in a delicious cup, described as complex, juicy, spicy, and sweet with a wonderful lasting after-taste,” says Hammer.

“I hope Mike will receive the support he needs to continue his passion,” he provides. Purple Cloud is donating to Golden Feather 100 % of income from on-line gross sales storewide by means of Nov. 18, he stated. Donors can choose “no purchase necessary” choice. Yi An at The Art of Tea (www.theartea.com) writes that it’s “heart breaking for us to hear what Mike Fritts lost. We respect and appreciate all of Mike’s effort and contribution to tea culture here.” She is also donating proceeds from a downloadable Blessing Chant by Guqin artist Shi YunLong to help the Fritts household.

(Photo courtesy of Golden Feather Tea)

Jason McDonald, a tea grower in Mississippi supplied Fritts substitute seeds from a newly arrived cargo of biclonals.

Tealet proprietor Elyse Petersen first met Fritts in 2014 when she toured his backyard.

“Growing tea and developing tea processing craft is a patience-testing investment of one’s life,” she stated. “Now, more than ever, is a time to learn about local tea craft and the challenges and risks the producers experience so we, as tea businesses and tea lovers, can support the artisans and create a more sustainable future for tea growers in the United States,” she writes.

Monetary donations for victims of the fireplace may be made to the American Red Cross. Visit redcross.org, name 1-800-RED CROSS or textual content the phrase REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Source: Facebook, The Daily Democrat, GoFundMe

CORRECTION: Golden Feather Tea will not be on the market, nor up to now, on Tealet.com

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